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The City Journals

Eastlake students pledge to be heart healthy

May 08, 2019 04:40PM ● By Julie Slama

Eastlake student council supported the student body participating in the Kids Heart Challenge that raised more than $4,300 for the American Heart Association. (Photo courtesy of Eastlake Elementary)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

In February, Eastlake Elementary students embraced healthy habits — with all their heart.

Supported by the student council, Eastlake students participated in the Kids Heart Challenge through the American Heart Association.

The program included a fundraising effort — with a contribution of more than $4,300 — as well as a push for all students to make heart-healthy choices during the month, said fifth-grade teacher and student council adviser Andrea Finau.

“Our students are motivated to be their own superheroes and join together to help other kids who need heart help,” she said. “They’re learning the value of giving to their community and at the same time, developing heart-healthy habits.”

Sixth-grader Miles Jeppson appreciated the impact of the challenge.

“It’s amazing how many people are being helped with the money that we raised,” Miles said.

Fifth-grader Samantha Kirkland chimed in, “I love the Kids Heart Challenge because we can help those in need, and it makes people feel good.”

Classmate Ella Reading agreed. “It’s just a little effort, and it helps change a lot of kids’ lives,” she said.

With the challenge, students could download the Kids Heart Challenge app and take a pledge to either exercise for 60 minutes per day, drink water instead of sugary soda or do something kind for someone. 

“We have signs up around school that are showing students are kind to one another,” Finau said. “There’s a sign that says, ‘Smile. You’re awesome’ in the bathroom or ‘You look great’ on the mirror. It’s another way of making our hearts happy.” 

The focus of healthy living comes with students learning healthy substitutes for junk food and encouragement to exercise.

“We’ve had students jump rope or dance to a video,” Finau said. “We have a bunch of students who are running or walking or practicing more for their teams.” Finau added that a bonus to this is that many students are learning physical fitness skills they can use for the rest of their lives.

Sixth-grade student Marriott Peedee said it united the school.

“My favorite part was that it brings people together through helping others,” Marriott said.

Fifth-grader Cade Erickson said it also motivated students.

“It teaches people to get out of their seat, stop watching TV and start exercising,” he said.

This is the first year Eastlake has participated in the Kids Heart Challenge.

“We let the student council look over several fundraisers and decide what they like to do,” Finau said. “Last year, we helped with Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and we’ve had food, clothing and book drives. This was something that the kids wanted to do as it challenges every student.” 

It even appealed to the student council since the mascot for the program is a shark, the same as Eastlake Elementary’s mascot. As students participate, they are rewarded with superhero key chains, which Finau said are “motivating.”

However, students also know the importance behind the fundraiser and its significance, she said.

“We’re hoping this opened their eyes to see that there are people who need help and that their donations can make an impact on people they don’t know,” Finau said. “Little things do make a difference.”

Fourth-grader Harper Wise said the inspiration was helping those who needed it.

“I liked that so many participated in helping others, and a lot of people aren’t just doing it for the prize,” Harper said.

Classmate Sam Leggat added, “It was fun and helpful.”

Many students did odd jobs at home and in their neighborhoods to bring in contributions.

“Students baked and sold cookies, babysat, did little jobs for $1 or $2,” Finau said. “By donating their own money, it has become more meaningful, and they experience the true joy of giving.” 

The 22-member student council, which made posters and counted contributions for each class, also helped coordinate a sports spirit day to tie into the monthlong program so students could dress as their favorite athlete or support their favorite team by wearing team gear.

“We're making a big difference, and at the same time, making good memories while they’re in elementary school,” Finau said.